This photo was taken at sunrise after a hike up to the top of Spyglass Mountain in the British Virgin Islands with my husband Sam. At the end of the programs, we write our goal cards. One of my goals was to write a book.
My writing journey started over a decade ago with the desire to write a book. The goal morphed into writing children's books when I became a mom, almost 7 years ago. When covid hit, those who had heard me say "I want to write children's books" over and over again had heard enough of me saying "what if" and not actually doing anything about it, especially my husband. So, Sam gave me the not so subtle nudge to finally do it. I had the time. I had the ideas. I found the class. I started writing, and I loved it. I wrote more, loved it more. My free time was dedicated to writing. I ended up writing six manuscripts, but I have tons of ideas in my head.
Fast forward to late April, early May, I thought, maybe someone will want to publish my stories? So, I started walking that path. Submitting or querying publishing houses and agents is a very detailed, time consuming, and complex process on its own. But, I went for it. Publishers started responding. A few contracts came my way. I didn't know what to look for and found out pretty quickly that I needed help reviewing contracts before I sign them. Rights, Distribution, type of printing, illustration discussions, the list goes on and on and on. I am not a literary lawyer and I know absolutely nothing about publishing. I found some great people in the industry to help guide me, I hired a literary attorney to help review, the whole time knowing that I really ultimately needed to be working with an agent because my personal situation was getting pretty complicated.
After querying more agents than I'd like to discuss, I found one who loves my stories, believes in me and wants to work with me. Jeanie with Loiacono Literary Agency decided to sign me on and all six of my manuscripts! Whoo Hoo! I am getting a lot of questions. The most common is, what does it mean to have an agent? This means LAA will help edit the manuscripts and put together submission packages to query publishing houses that I wasn't able to submit to myself. She will negotiate the contracts on my behalf and help guide me to making the best decision for me as an author. I was taking care of the submission process before on my own, but now Jeanie and her agency will take care of that entire process. So to clarify, the announcement about LAA signing me is about them believing they can sell my stories to a publishing house. I still have that very big step to go. LAA is an agency, not a publishing house. It's a HUGE RELIEF for me, a big reason to celebrate, and one step closer to getting my books into the hands of children worldwide.
Thank you for the continued support and excitement. It's a wonderful outlet for me and a big weight off my shoulders to have experts working on my side. Time seems to be a bit scarce for me lately as I'm starting back with Global Expeditions Group next week. I'm also currently in season as the head JV field hockey coach at Collegiate. (Go Cougars!) A lot of friends think I'm crazy, but I have found things I love. I'm busy doing things that fulfill me in different ways... and it's great. Fueling the passion!
More to come...
It's been a long summer of crazy highs and lows for me on this journey to publication. I thought I'd share some incredible resources I've found along the way while navigating these really big decisions. At times, I've felt completely frozen and unable to decide which avenue will be the best for me; making what seems like impossible decisions. So, in case you find yourself in my position needing good, honest people's advice and help to review publishing contracts, agent contracts, or need to get a literary lawyer involved to help with negotiations, here are the BEST OF THE SUMMER 2021 (in my honest opinion) because, guess what, I've had to use them all 🙃
In no particular order...
The best pitch / query / critique services for Picture Books: Sara Kruger
You can get in touch with her on twitter @sarakruger and she will work with your pitches, query letters, and also offers full PB critique's. She's fast, honest, and doesn't cost too much money. I haven't found a critique group yet, so she was very helpful to me when I needed another set of eyes. She's really good at what she does!
The best mentor / writing coach: Rosie J. Pova
You can reach Rosie via her website www.rosiejpova.com or on twitter @ROSIEPOV She is very professional, to the point, incredibly knowledgeable about the industry and will pour energy into her students. She is well connected and offers honest feedback. She offers classes online with Writing Workshops of Dallas and also one-on-one mentorships. You can't go wrong working with Rosie!
The best picture book literary attorney: Melissa Edwards
If you find yourself in a situation where you need someone to review or negotiate a picture book publishing offer and you don't yet have an agent, she's your gal. Well, for one thing, she's a picture book agent, so she knows what she's talking about. Throw in there that she's also a literary lawyer, and you have a double bonus. You can hire her just for a contract review or to negotiate with the publisher on your behalf. Up to you. You can find her on twitter @MelissaLaurenE or her website: www.melissaedwardsesq.com
The best publisher offering great advice: Eric with 5310 Publishing
You can find Eric on twitter @eric5310pub He offers an amazing amount of helpful information to authors when it comes to contracts. He will review a publishing contract or an agent contract and offer advice for what is the "norm" in the industry. He posts about things to look for, average royalty rates, copyright, insurances, morality clauses, etc., things that maybe you might not know to look for. I had no idea about any of this. He is a wealth of knowledge.
The best picture book course: Writing Picture Books from Creation to Publication with Rosie Pova and Writers Workshops of Dallas
If you feel like you have a story inside of your head and you don't know the first thing about writing a picture book or how to get it on paper, this course will help you do it. It gives you the foundation and tools you need. I was lucky enough to take this course back in January and absolutely loved it. I enjoyed working with my critique group and watching other's stories transform from idea into polished manuscripts. You won't regret it! Bonus, there is a class that starts August 30, 2021! You can apply online here.
The best pen to write with: Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball
That's the best pen I've been able to find 🤪And bonus, they come in a pack of 8 different colors for those of you who like to color code agendas & planners and manuscripts like me!
That's all for now. Stay tuned for some more updates on all things publishing and updates on my endeavors coming soon. I hope the #writingcommunity will find some of the information in this post helpful. I sure could have used this back in May!
Hope everyone has a great week 💙
Thank you for your calls, texts, voice messages, and the love and encouragement over the past few months, especially the past few weeks. You all have given me offers to host book signings, offers to host me as a visiting author at schools, offers to sell my books in your stores, buy my books in bulk for corporate gifting, seriously your love is overwhelming! I can't wait to take you up on all those things.
At the moment, I'm taking my time while I make some really big decisions involving multiple manuscripts of mine. I can't wait to share more news when I can. Until then, please know much much I am feeling the love and I can't thank you enough! This is both a long process that feels painfully slow some weeks, but also, in publishing world standards, this is happening lightning fast for me. Thank you for following along this crazy ride with me! Rosie, Blake, Joni, Dallas Writers, you continue to be the best professional support system ever!
So incredibly excited that I got a "YES" to publish that I had really really been hoping and praying for. I can't wait to inspire the youngest generation of ocean activists one children's book at a time! Much more to come, but for now I get to appreciate the moment and pop this bottle tonight with four generations on our favorite island! 🥳 So much excitement! Thank you Rosie Pova and Dallas Writers , no words right now...
In the beginning of this, I kind of thought I wanted to try and get published and submit manuscripts all on my own, without an agent. I found out pretty quickly that a lot of publishers don't even allow unsolicited submissions; that you only get a chance to publish with these houses if you have an agent or a referral to submit your work. I wasn't afraid of the rejections I knew I would get, so I wanted to do the work myself and figure it out. Now I'm in a bit of a pickle. If you get an offer from a publisher without an agent, you need an agent or a literary lawyer to help comb through the details and negotiate for you, unless, of course, you know what you should be looking for in these 20+ page contracts.
For whatever reason, the publishing houses are responding to my queries, which is great! However, I have ZERO background in literary law, and I am now moving to the negotiating stages of my contracts, without an agent or a lawyer. So, that’s my next step in this process: get an expert on my side.
I have written offers on two different stories with two different publishing houses. One house has a third story in acquisition and another house has requested a revision and resubmit on a 4th story. Things are getting pretty complicated and I will be making some pretty big decisions here in the next few weeks about which way to go. The two written contracts I have right now expire in mid-August, which is rapidly approaching.
If you have any leads or advice on Literary Lawyers, please reach out to me! In the meantime, I'm channeling as much positive energy as possible from Figure 8. I have a few leads on amazing agents who might want to take a chance on me but there are no guarantees at all. If there is one more thing to say to whoever wants to bet on me and be on my team, it is this, "I will NOT let you down!"
How did this workshop help you grow as a writer? I think that being in person, writing one-on-one with no other distractions was very helpful to me. I am a working mom and is hard to find uninterrupted blocks of time where I can work on my career as a children’s writer that isn't only at 4:00 AM. Over the weekend, I grew in every area: my editing skills, formatting, my comfort level of being silly when reading out loud, the creativity in my writing, and trusting my own imagination. I have a clear picture of my next realistic steps to grow.
What did you find most valuable? Hard to answer this one! I think having Rosie's uninterrupted attention on growing me as a writer! She and I had so many hours working on my craft, talking me through every step of the way. Rosie has 16+ years of experience in this industry and she is very successful. She shared her journey, the ups, the downs, the successes, the downfalls. Honestly, the most valuable thing about the weekend was our uninterrupted hours and hours we spent talking, critiquing, Q&A sessions… working on me. I am so thankful and fortunate.
Would you recommend it to other writers? 100% without a doubt, YES!
What would you say to someone who is considering working with me as their writing coach? Whoever can get Rosie's undivided attention to coach them for a full weekend should consider themselves unbelievably lucky and JUMP at the opportunity. You would not regret it at all. I learned so much and it was an incredibly fulfilling weekend for me. I enjoyed every minute of our time this past weekend together.
Overall thoughts: My choice to work with Rosie Pova was the BEST decision ever. I researched a lot of classes. I looked at so many options online and ultimately decided to work with Rosie at the Writers Workshop of Dallas. Her class gave me the tools, the foundation, the skills, and outlined exactly what I needed to do to succeed. I completed the Children's Picture Book course (LOVED IT) alongside a 3 month individual mentorship (so hard but LOVED IT). She invested her time in me, most importantly, she believed in me. It took time for me to prove to her and show her my dedication and passion for writing. But she stuck with me, she worked with me, and she really took me from not having a clue what to do… to being very close to being published. And not only with one story… but with six stories. I think that alone speaks volumes to Rosie and the value I got out of working with her! At the end of our initial 3 month mentorship, I knew I wanted a body of work ready to query so when she offered to continue working with me, I signed on for another 2 months and accepted her invitation to spend the weekend writing in Dallas for an intense on-one-one writing workshop. I have those six manuscripts ready to rock and I am forever grateful to her for her time, wisdom, knowledge, and encouragement on this journey. It’s been a wild ride… and I’m just getting started!
Oh gosh... so much! I have a lot of editing to do from our critique sessions. I have a lot of "unpacking" to do mentally. I am going to make sure my notes are organized and probably type up an outline of my major takeaways from the weekend. I need to create new accounts for my social channels (instagram and facebook) and work on my brand. I really do have a lot to do but I will take it step by step. I think the hardest thing for me is to realize that this whole process just takes time. Querying six manuscripts simultaneously is no joke but this dream is definitely becoming a reality for me. Stay tuned...
Chasing a dream isn't always easy. I'm nervous. I'm excited. I'm ready. I'm ready to learn. To write, edit, re-write. I'm ready to work hard. I'm ready to get all the negative and the positive feedback. Tomorrow, I'm headed to Texas to work with Rosie Pova for the weekend. OMG! It's very exciting. She is investing her time in me, she believes in me, now I just need to focus, and get on that plane! Did I mention I'm nervous!? If you had told me in December that in June I'd be flying to work with a famous children's author, I wouldn't have believed you! But, it's happening and here I go! This weekend is a really big step in the right direction for me!
In a normal year, Sam and I would be spending a significant part of our summer in the British Virgin Islands. Like most people, Covid changed a lot for us. I'll spare you the nitty gritty, but neither one of us are going to the islands this summer which is super strange for our entire family.
When heading back to the islands, I would look forward to waking up with the sun shining and falling asleep to the sound of water hitting the side of the boat. I am always so excited to "unplug" from our fast-paced culture and move to the simple life at sea. It's a chance to step back to enjoy your natural surroundings without the constant social buzz surrounding you. It’s a chance to connect with students and staff from all over the world and get to know each person for who they are. It's a chance to experience the magic of living alongside the marine life and connect with nature. It’s a very fulfilling experience that is hard to describe. We have absolutely loved spending every summer in this way since 2008 and will miss our time in the islands this year. These experiences have shaped us into who we are as people and as parents, today.
Living in remote places for a lot of our life has changed our perspective on raising our kids. So much so, that we are a no-screen family. We disconnect whenever we can. *Our kids ARE allowed to watch pre-downloaded movies or shows but only when we travel. We DO have the occasional fun movie night as a family or let them watch a show on very rare occasions.* Are we doing our kids disservice? I personally don't really think so. One thing I do know is that we are doing our best as parents and that our kids are happy.
Anyway, we try to bring the remote life to shore, simply because we love it. And this is the exact topic of the next children's book I wrote. I wrote it from an "unplugged" child's perspective, inspired by the life of my own children. I can't wait to start querying this particular story next week!
Thanks for following along! Your support means the world to me.
I'm working on my next story. I am still working with Rosie. She really has her ways to encourage me write. I get stuck though. I get really stuck on developing a concept or I totally overthink and overcomplicate the storyline. I have to let the ideas rest and simmer for a while, but working on these tight deadlines, I struggle by getting in my own head wondering, how can I come up with another something great in such a short time? At some point I feel like I have completely drained my creativity reservoir and just want to cry! So, what do I do? I go to Barnes and Noble or the library as much as I can and I read as many children's books as possible. Some books have something to do with the subject of my next book, some books have absolutely nothing at all to do with the story I am writing. It is very helpful for me to give my own brain a rest and enjoy beautifully illustrated stories on the shelves. While reading, more often than not, an idea will pop into my head, completely out of the blue, that will inspire an idea or concept in my own book.
This week I had a big deadline where a draft was due today. I felt very crunched for time and I was totally stressing about it. There was so much pressure, especially because I let my husband and my kids read a draft last night that I had worked on for hours and hours and hours and they didn't get it. They didn't get it at all. I had totally overcomplicated it and they didn't like it. I was mad, sad, didn't know what to do, so I asked my husband to wake me up at 4:45 am when he went to the gym.
Maybe not the best idea, but it turned out great, this time. After a good night’s sleep, and time away from the story, I woke up at 4:45 am feeling nervous but ready to rock a completely new concept on the same subject. I had done the research, knew generally what message I wanted. I'd developed my characters but just needed to write it. And, success! Before I took my kids to school this morning, I was able to read the completed new draft to the girls and my husband. They LOVED it. All three of them.
I don't know if there is a moral to this blog story or not. Maybe when there's a will, there's a way. There's really something to walking away from a concept, letting your brain rest, and then coming back with a fresh perspective. Determination, hard work, positivity, and a lot of creativity will get you there.
And of course, feedback can be brutal. So brutal! But it's so important to listen and take it as constructive criticism. I'm always finding ways to make myself better, although sometimes it’s very difficult to hear honest criticism, it is invaluable to your personal growth. You don't have to agree with what they say all the time, but it's important for you to listen with an open mind.
Thanks for following...
It's an exciting time in my journey! I have started to receive some positive feedback on all three of my stories from the publishing industry. I met with a publishing house this morning and I left feeling very positive about our conversation. Mostly because they seem very genuine and they were interested in me as a person: my life, my children, and my goals. I have also had a few other email exchanges with another publisher and agents, but more to come on all of that later. I have to be patient and know that good things will come with hard work.
Starting Monday, I am going to begin writing my next story. I will spend the weekend at the bookstore with my children, getting inspiration from lots of time outside, and writing a list of at least ten marketable story ideas. I have a working list already that started way back in 2006, but I'm always waiting for something to jump out and inspire the next story. Stay tuned. I sense a lot of sleepless nights ahead of me.
In other very exciting news, I was asked to go to Dallas, TX this Summer to meet Rosie Pova and work one on one in person with her. I am thrilled and honored for this opportunity and I cannot wait for our time together. She has been a tremendous help already to me on this journey to publication and it will be fantastic to meet her.
Please send me all of your positive and creative energy. I'll need it these next few weeks!
Blair has travelled extensively all over the world. She and her husband enjoy taking their kids on big adventures together. Blair writes children's picture books for all ages! Most of her stories are inspired by life events that have happened during their adventures. They feature kids curiosity, love of the environment, laughter, and fantasy.